Grading the Pistons at the halfway point

As a lifelong Pistons fan and close analyzer of the team, I’ll be the first to tell you all that this chemistry of a “team,” really puts the “D” in Detroit.

I guess it’s only right to start with coaching and then work our way down. Stan the man VanGundy. the man with the plan, and Detroit’s solution to the five plus years of underachievement. First, let’s not forget and act like when news broke that he’d be taking over the bench, we weren’t excited. Detroit was getting a good textbook coach, a coach who understood and represented the players, and a smart coach in terms of acquiring the correct personnel for his style of game. All of which have slowly diminished during his three year tenure.

Second, how much longer will the fans have to wait to see some contributing veterans suit up for the Pistons? That alone is a problem within a problem. The Pistons have zero veteran help/leadership, and have zero go-to guys on the bench. On top of that, with the guys we do have on the bench, their all somewhat similar, and creating yet another issue…too many of the same pieces on an already one dimensional team.

Last but not least, plain and simple, his coaching. I’m all about change and seeing what can come from it but not if it’s going to regress the efforts and results of past seasons. Best example, look at Drummond and Jackson, ever wonder what happened to that late season chemistry they had flowing last season? Me too. Both of those players seem to be far off their games in comparison to last season and I think VanGundy’s system has something to do with it. In most of the games that I’ve seen this season, seem to neglect that Drummond/Jackson pick and roll that worked oh so well for them last season, and extending from that, he doesn’t even use Drummond to his advantage, putting the ball in his hands down in the post in order to open up things up top.From a fans perspective, I don’t see any motivation from him to his players and vis versa. From the looks of things, he’s starting to lose control of the mission at hand, which was a huge reason why I gave him and the Pistons the grade I did.

Let’s get down in the paint.

Andre Drummond

Drummond cannot be the best player on a title contending team. Yea he’s good for a double-double each game, but how effective is a double-double from your big when the majority of his production is coming on the offensive side of the court? Yes points win games, yes you want your big to be able to handle the ball and contribute, but looking at the FIVE position, don’t you want some sort of dominant, physical presence and then some?

Now don’t get me wrong here, what I don’t want you all to think is that his offensive contribution and boards are underappreciated. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is, as a center or big man in this league, you have to or should take what you can get on offense, and let your dominance shine on defense. From what I’ve seen, Drummond is a second chance, put-back machine, but what good is that when your opponents point guard can drive and finesse his way to the hoop as he feels?

The Pistons have enough guys around Drummond who are more than willing to shoot the ball and score, so I would like to see Drummond OWN the paint, not just float around it. Let your presence be known, keep the double-double, but let that double-double come in as rebounds and blocks. I mean he averages more points per game than KCP, Marcus Morris, and Stanley Johnson for crying out loud.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

KCP, or as I like to call him, hot shot wonder. Some games you watch him and he’ll make you say “damn, he’s money,” other nights, his shot looks counterfeit. He’s the player on the team that you can cut right down the middle and call him 50/50 because the guy is just so inconsistent you never know what kind of game he’s going to have.

Either you have him playing a quiet game and steps up in the fourth to hit a game winner after being down 30, like he did in Portland earlier last month or maybe he comes out with the hot hand ready to go and goes off for 38 like he did against the Pelicans a few weeks back. Then there are the nights where we play a below average team like the Timberwolves and he drops a whopping 2 points then doubles that the next night on the road against the Pacers.

Ish Smith

Probably the least concerning player amongst those who get playing time on the team. My man Ish signed with the Pistons this offseason in order to add some much needed depth behind Reggie Jackson and the bench itself but has proven to be MUCH more than a bench asset. He guided the team to a solid start, setting up Reggie Jackson for a nice return (which went way left), he’s created offense for himself as well as those around him, and I almost would go out on a limb and say he’s pushed the surrounding four guys around him to be a little better, even creating a chemistry with Tobias Harris, who has been the standout player while playing alongside Ish.

Reggie Jackson

Jackson who has struggled tremendously on both sides of the court, has done nothing this season but put his tenure in Detroit in question, also leading many fans and maybe members of the team to question whether or not he’s a piece to Detroit’s championship vision. Nobody comes back from injury at 100 percent, that’s just facts, but everybody was 100 percent sure Jackson would come back and be able to manage the floor and progress the team for the next three quarters of the season. Comparing this season to last, his game has changed tremendously, shooting way more shots from the perimeter versus last years behind the defense and at the rim.

Not sure if that’s him saying he’s done being an aggressive point guard, or him changing his game in order to slow it down, either way it’s not working in his favor. As of today, Jackson is averaging 10 points, 5.7 assists and 1.5 rebounds a game, while shooting 37 percent from the floor and 27 percent from three…that’s not going to cut it, especially eyeing an 8th seeded spot in the playoffs at best.

Stanley Johnson

Oooh Stanley…our defensive praised first round draft pick in 2015. Yea, still hasn’t panned out for us in Detroit. Still getting minimal minutes per game, still averaging less than 5 points per game at 4.2, and needless to say, still hasn’t stepped into a starting role on this young image-less team. And to think the Pistons could have drafted Justice Winslow who averaged 10.9 points per game through 18 games due to injury but 7.3 ppg on his career. And I get it, Stanley’s still young like a lot of players on this team, but what I don’t get is the lack of progression.

Overall: D+

With tomorrow being the cutoff date for trades, and zero noise being made out of Detroit, I as a fan am preparing for another mediocre below average finish. I find it hard to believe that somebody within the organization won’t blow this thing up next season and start fresh. It’s going to take some big ones to trade Jackson or Drummond, but it may be the team’s best option. Of course the fans are going to wine and moan about such transactions but here’s what needs to be understood: there’s no relationship more important than the one between a star player and coach, the second most important relationship comes between two stars, and honestly, I’m not seeing any of that and in no way shape or form can you win in such an environment.


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